Saturday, March 31, 2012

ABQ Pride's Stonewall Award

Tonight, I was honored to accept Albuquerque Pride's Stonewall Award for advocating for equality and awareness for the LGBTQ community.  I must say, that of all the awards to win, one with the name Stonewall is just amazing!  I honestly never would have thought I would get such recognition, and so many people are responsible for without them, I am nothing!  I have had some requests for the text of the speech I gave tonight, so I will include it here.  I want to congratulate the award winners tonight, and also to congratulate each and every one of the nominees, because truly all were winners!  And with such amazing, strong people, Albuquerque and New Mexico is all the richer.  I will miss so many things about this state, including the amazing friends I've made here.  Ok, on to the speech:

This is truly an honor.  You’ll have to excuse me, I feel way out of my element.  I’m always more at home in jeans and a t-shirt yelling into a megaphone.   I want to thank my beautiful mother, my amazing fellow activists in NM GetEQUAL, including Miss Brittany Arneson, Gary Peterson and Jesse Lopez.   Thank you to all who have stood with me in the streets, sat in on conference calls, discussed politics and tactics over coffee, retweeted me, and engaged in discussions on Facebook!  Thanks to my amazing GetEQUAL team both locally and across the country, to the incredible team at Albuquerque Pride,  and thanks to friends and mentors who are not able to be here tonight: fellow activists Kelly Hutton, Michelle Wright, Heather Cronk, and David Fleck have all given me guidance and support.  Most importantly, thanks to my partner, Les, and our daughter Alegra, without whom I would not be able to function daily. 
I have had people ask me just what it is that motivates me, what gives me the drive to stand strong and fight oppression.  The quickest answer I can give is that I finally reached my boiling point, and am no longer able or willing to sit back and allow status quo to be “good enough” for myself, my family, or our community.  The system is slow, too slow for our youth who sometimes end up taking the tragic way out, too slow for LGBT families who face discrimination and inequality on a daily basis in hundreds of ugly ways, too slow for our transgender brothers and sisters who all too often are dismissed by society and discounted by loved ones as just going through a phase.  I say the system doesn’t have to be this slow.  If each and every one of us dedicates a little more time to the struggle, full equality in all areas governed by federal and local law can be a reality in the near future!  Whether that means talking to strangers about why this is important, working with our lawmakers to make a bold difference, taking legal action through the courts when necessary, or organizing on the streets and in our neighborhoods, is up to you.  I firmly believe that it will take all of these actions from as many of us as possible to truly effect change, and we CAN change not only the game but he pace of the game!  I thank each and every one of you and hope to see you on the streets!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

What does equality mean to you?

Equality.  We hear that word a lot, but how many of us have really sat down and thought about just what the word means?  Many of you, upon hearing or seeing the word may instantly think of LGBTQ Equality, and currently, that is where we most see this word being used.  I recently sat down and really thought this word out, and did come to realize that it means so much more to me.  Equality, to me, means just that, equality.  Not just for LGBTQ people, but for all people!  When I talk about equality, and how I am an activism for equality, I mean for LGBTQ people, for immigrants, for women, for the differently-abled, for children, for people of all economic statuses, races, creeds, religions, political affiliations (yes, that means that even though I disagree with most of their views, this includes Tea Party Patriots), and any other factor you can think up.  As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."  That quote, above all others, is probably my number one motivator in life these days.  My days of sitting idly by as my friends and neighbors suffer various forms of injustice or violence are long over.  When (when, not if) we achieve full federal equality for LGBTQ people, my work as an activist is far from done.  Aside from the multitude of social issues that will still face the LGBTQ community, there will always be other groups of people suffering inequality who could use allies, and I plan on being one of many (and I can hope that number will continue to grow) such allies!

One of the most important principals of Unitarian Universalism is that we affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of each and every person.  This is probably the one thing that I struggle with the most, and that is because, as I am out protesting, say, a homophobic lawmaker, it is a struggle to envision any worth or dignity in that person.  Despite the huge difference in opinion he or she may have regarding my life (who asked them anyway), I do have to recognize and affirm this principal.  That's not to say I won't continue to hold folks accountable for hatred and bigotry, just saying that yes, they are human and yes, we all make mistakes, and yes, I'm calling them out for theirs!  At the end of the day, we all lay in similar bedding and close our eyes for sleep, if only we can find ways to be just as equal during our waking hours.

So, I want to hear from you.  Just what does Equality mean for you, and when the cause closest to your own heart achieves full equality, will you back down from the struggle, or move on and keep working for others?


Monday, March 19, 2012

The "I Want To Know What It's Like" Video

If you have not yet seen the "I Want To Know What It's Like" video, you really should take 5 minutes, sit down, and watch!  I've seen it said that this is the gay rights video that will give you chills.  In my opinion, that is an underpayment.  The power of poetry, the power of performance poetry, well, it can be an amazing thing.  A friend pointed this out to me yesterday, and I was just blown away.  Yes, I'll admit, I did get chills, but more than that, I bawled.  It is moving.  I posted it on my facebook page and a friend commented that it made her want to go march the streets!  Yes!  If only we could get more people to feel that way from a simple video or two, imagine the impact if every single person who is moved by this video (currently over 600,000 hits) not only shared it with loved ones, but immediately took some form of direct action.  Be it a phone call, a letter or two, or literally took to the streets to start conversations and raise awareness?  What are we waiting for?  Like the video says, I WANT TO KNOW WHAT IT'S LIKE!


This video is part of a project, the Second Class Citizens film, you can visit their facebook page here for more information.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

My Road To Activism

I have had people ask me how I got "into" activism.  It is an interesting story, and to me, "road to activism" stories are just as fascinating, diverse, and layered as "coming out" stories can be!  For me, my activism has gone in waves.  All of my life, I have been one to be very aware of the world around me, particularly of the hardships of the disenfranchised.  High school saw me attempting (and failing) to start an underground newspaper, organizing and rallying students to save the job of a transgender teacher, doing some work for environmental justice and animal rights, and trying to organize a pro-peace rally during the first Gulf War.  In my mind, those efforts were not very successful (looking back, I can see some awesome successes in them all), and that is probably the primary reason I sort of pulled into my shell for a couple decades!

I became what my friends call an armchair activist.  Always hyper aware of things going on in the world, I was on top of every call in, and letter writing campaign, and later, as the internet started to take off, always on top of email campaigns and petition drives.  This, along with frequently speaking my mind among friends and coworkers, was the extend of any activism I was engaged in.  Then, during the summer of 2010, I sat at home, watching events unfold via Twitter.  These were a set of direct actions taking place around the country over "Don't Ask Don't Tell" and also around getting a Trans inclusive ENDA (employment non discrimination act) passed.  The emotional impact of watching live tweets from actions where people were sitting in on offices, or chaining themselves to the White House fence was huge for me!  It literally started to reawaken my inner activist!

I spent the next few months diving into research on direct action, non violent action, social justice work.  I read MLK, Gandhi, Thoreau, read up online about ACT-UP, Queer Nation, and on and on.  I started doing some social justice work with people in my church.  Then, in September of that year, President Obama came to Albuquerque.  Myself and a few new activist friends were there in protest to pressure Obama to sign an executive order halting discharges under DADT until it was repealed.  Being on the streets and taking direct action, I was instantly "at home"!  For me, there was (and is) no going back.  I have been organizing and causing a ruckus since then, and have seen first hand how direct action can truly yield results.  This blog, for me, is another extension of this work.  As outgoing State Lead of NM GetEQUAL, I have a few months left with my group (and in the state of NM), and will then be a Floridian.  This blog will travel with me, and be, hopefully, a great way for me to both process shit in my own head, and help others along in their own journey!


Friday, March 16, 2012

First Post

So now I have decided to keep a blog of some of my random thoughts, especially those pertaining to my activism.  Nothing special on this first post.  A bit about me for those who don't know me.  I'm a claim processor for a health insurance company during the day, and when I'm not working, I volunteer and do a lot of activism for LGBT rights, and for Equality for all humans!  I currently live in Los Lunas, NM (just south of Albuquerque), but in June, I will be moving to Tampa, FL.  More later.....